5 Surprising Health Benefits of Gardening

Benefits of gardening-gardening for health-African American couple planting flowers
My Garden Life
March 6, 2023
Table of Contents

Why have your own garden? There are many benefits of gardening. Growing your own vegetables will save you hard-earned cash at the grocery store or your garden can be a great place to relax and socialize, but the act of gardening can also have positive effects on your health.

If maintaining a healthy lifestyle is on your priority list, then exercise should be at the top! Pumping iron can help maintain and strengthen muscles, while yoga is ideal for increasing flexibility and balance. However, have you considered gardening as a way to boost your health?

Why Gardening is Good for You

Gardening is an excellent form of physical activity no matter your age and has a multitude of benefits for both mental and physical health, not to mention the sheer pleasure derived from tending to plants. From fresh air to burning calories and a healthier diet. The garden is not only a place to relax but to improve your body and mind.

Health benefits of gardening - woman on her knees in the grass using a hand tool to prepare an area to plant flowers in a border.

Surprising Health Benefits of Gardening

1. Gardening Burns Calories

With gardening, you move your body to accomplish a task. Depending on how much you weigh, 60 minutes of gardening burns between 200 and 300 calories. This is more than walking but less than running. The heavier you are, the more calories you’ll burn.

For example, a 150-pound person burns about 270 calories per hour of gardening. It’s not surprising if you think about it. Think about how much energy you use when digging a hole for planting. That’s why gardening is a legitimate form of exercise that counters the effects of too much sitting and can help you burn calories for a healthier body weight. 

Health benefits of gardening - a man with a hoe digging out weeds in a hosta garden bed.

As a nation, we have become an increasingly sedentary population. We are not moving as much as we should be, and that has a significant impact on our health. And so, it’s no wonder that people are looking for ways to introduce more movement into their lives and one way that has caught on is gardening. More and more people are discovering the many health benefits of gardening both physically and mentally.

2. Gardening Builds Strength

Gardening builds strength. Not surprising when you consider you’re using shovels, squatting down, and lifting and pushing heavy things like wheelbarrows. The movements you do when gardening will also help you maintain balance and avoid falls. The bending, reaching, and pulling associated with gardening improve muscle tone and strength.

Health benefits of gardening -a woman with a metal watering can reaching high to pour water on perennial flowers in a garden border.

If you want to challenge your strength even more, try power gardening with hand tools like a pick or trowel. These tools are designed to give you extra leverage when doing tough jobs like breaking up hard ground or uprooting weeds. And with a little practice, you can use them to increase the intensity of everyday jobs like digging holes or planting bulbs.

3. Gardening Lowers Stress Levels

An added therapeutic benefit of gardening is it’s also a natural way to relieve stress. A randomized controlled study where participants either read a book or gardened for relaxation found that gardening led to a greater decrease in cortisol than reading. That’s not surprising, since gardening is an activity that you do in nature, and exposure to nature offers powerful stress relief benefits.

There are several ways to use gardening as a stress management technique:

Slow down and focus on the present moment when you’re out in your garden or tending to your plants indoors. By taking the time to smell the flowers and focus on your breathing, you can give yourself a break from the pressures of everyday life.

Health benefits of gardening -a woman sits on stone patio steps surrounded by flowering potted plants in a peaceful, thoughtful state.

You can also use meditation techniques when you’re gardening by repeating affirmations such as “I am healthy and strong” or “My mind is peaceful and calm” while planting new flowers, herbs, or vegetables for your garden or indoor containers. When combined with gentle stretching movements as you dig up some soil or turn over compost, these are great ways to reduce tension in both the mind and body while getting closer to nature.

Grow stress-relieving herbs that can be used to make teas, sachets and potpourri. Even if you don’t have a space to garden there are herbs that can be grown indoors near a sunny window or under artificial lights.

4. Gardening Gets You Outside

Getting outside is important to your mental and physical health. You really can’t go wrong by adding more outdoor activities to your routine. It gives you a chance to soak up much-needed vitamin D. Plus, exposure to green space has positive effects on mood and cognitive function.

Health benefits of gardening -two girls and two woman having fun raking leaves and tossing them in the air.

Gardening is a great way to get outside and reap these benefits right in your own backyard. If you’re lucky enough to have one, that is! What if you live in an apartment? No problem — a windowsill garden or container garden on the balcony counts as well.

When gardening at home, you can enjoy the results of your efforts, whether that be a beautiful flower bed or a luscious row of vegetables, from your window, reminding you of all the hard work that went into creating something beautiful and healthy for yourself.

5. Gardening Supplies You with Healthy Food

One of the best things about gardening is the health benefits of growing your own food. Your garden can supply you with healthy fruits, herbs, and vegetables, a food most people get too little of. Plant-based foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients that your body needs for optimal health.

Health benefits of gardening -a woman harvesting radishes from the garden and placing them in a small wicker basket.

Gardening gives you access to fresh, healthy food. If you grow your own fruit and vegetables, then you’ll have ready access to nutrient-dense foods, free from pesticides and other harmful chemicals (assuming you’ve looked after them well!). If you don’t want to grow your own food, then get involved in local community gardening projects – or simply buy from farmers’ markets instead of supermarkets.

It’s not just the physical activity that counts when you’re gardening — it’s also the healthy food that comes out of it.

The Bottom Line on Gardening for Health

Gardening can bring a wide variety of physical and mental health benefits to everyone from toddlers to seniors. The great thing about gardening is that anyone can do it, regardless of age or ability level. All you need is a little bit of space outside your home or even inside your home (for indoor plants) and some simple tools to start planting seeds or seedlings in the ground or in pots!

Health benefits of gardening -a woman working at a table, transplanting tomato seedlings into peat pots.

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